However, denials because of mental-health issues are spotty. Since 1998, fewer than 11,000 people have been denied a gun purchase for a history of mental problems, FBI records show.
A 2011 study by the lobbying group Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that only 28 states have laws either requiring or permitting state officials to submit mental-health information to the FBI for federal background checks. West Virginia is among those states, although the state's record of mental-health reports submitted per 100,000 residents -- 305.1 -- falls below the national average of 379.3.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns has been pushing for stricter federal gun-control laws.
States that don't require sharing mental-health information might or might not report that information to the FBI. Data collected by Mayors Against Illegal Guns show wide variations in the number of people with mental-health problems who were reported to the federal background-check system.
California topped the list in the 2011 study, with almost 280,000 mental-health records shared. However, several states, among them Alaska, Delaware, Idaho and Rhode Island, submitted no mental-health records for the background-check system.
Since 2009, West Virginia has reported more than 10,000 people to the FBI who should not be allowed to have guns because of mental-health issues, according to Linda Richmond Artimez, director of mental-hygiene services for the West Virginia Supreme Court.
Officials with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms started asking states to report mental-health information for background checks in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. Donna Sellers, a spokeswoman for the ATF, said the agency strongly encourages states to report those with a history of mental problems, and reminds gun dealers that mental-health issues might disqualify a buyer from purchasing a gun.
Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.